Lost tramper 'upfront' about past
A rescued tramper whose criminal past was uncovered during the search for him and two companions in Golden Bay says he was honest with New Zealand immigration.
Guy Verschuur, 51, who has been in New Zealand for 10 years and has residency, was one of three trampers rescued from a Kahurangi National Park hut on Monday night after being overdue for a week. Mr Verschuur said from Takaka today he had been convicted of "false imprisonment with sexual intentions" in the United States.
"I had a major hypoglycemic attack and reached out to someone during the attack. There was fabrication on the other side of what my intention was," he said of the 1998 incident.
"The person was scared. It's understandable the person was scared.
"I wanted to go and apologise and explain but the lawyer told me not to.
"I have over 30 letters of support from long-time friends and a couple of past long-term relationships saying that I would never hurt another human being," he said.
Mr Verschuur said he was honest about his past with New Zealand immigration officials when he applied for residency and it was accepted.
Immigration New Zealand said Mr Verschuur's file was being "actively reviewed".
"INZ takes the allegations about Mr Verschuur extremely seriously," acting general manager Marie Sullivan said. "People are required to declare whether or not they are under investigation by a law enforcement agency in any country, or have a criminal record."
Mr Verschuur arrived in New Zealand on a visitor visa in December 2002, and had become a resident, she said. For privacy reasons, she was unable to provide further details.
Mr Verschuur is listed on the Nebraska Sex Offender register, an official website of the state government.
He was convicted of first degree false imprisonment of a minor in January 1998.
The site also records him as having "absconded".
Nebraska police have said Mr Verschuur is not of criminal interest to them and Nelson police have said their focus has been on the rescue of the three trampers.
Mr Verschuur, who lives on a housebus at a friend's property near Takaka, said he had sought legal advice when he was thinking of leaving the United States, because his record was close to being expunged.
He said he "acted on what he was instructed to do." He later discovered his legal advice was incorrect.
"I'm just getting on with my life and have been for many years," he said.
One of his tramping companions, Finnish woman Jenny Rautio, 26, said she felt "completely safe" at all times.
"I want to support him because he is an amazing person and is very loving and supportive to me.
"He's the best friend I've ever had," she said.
Ms Rautio said she knew about Mr Verschuur's past before the tramp and she completely trusted him and felt very safe to go tramping with him.
An immigration specialist told Fairfax Media Mr Verschuur would have been allowed into New Zealand either because officials felt the four years that had elapsed since his conviction was sufficient, or he had failed to disclose his conviction.
Once granted residency, he could get citizenship after five years, the source said.
Citizens can not be deported, though if it was found that Mr Verschuur had made false representations to get into New Zealand in the first place, then he could be deprived of citizenship.
Taking citizenship away was a long and complicated process, the specialist said.
The Nelson Mail